Kofi Annan (file photo)
United Nations, 21 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- In his speech to the UN General Assembly today, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged world leaders to end what he called the "shameless disregard" for the rule of law.
Annan focused in his speech on abuses of rule of law, saying legal norms were most flagrantly abused in Sudan, Israel, and Iraq. He referred to the terrorist attacks and kidnappings in Iraq as well as the abuse of Iraqi inmates by U.S. guards in the Abu Ghurayb prison.
"In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood while relief workers, journalists and other noncombatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion. At the same time we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused," Annan said.
Annan also mentioned last month's terrorist incident in Beslan, noting the "brutal massacre" of schoolchildren who were taken hostage.
But the secretary-general stressed that the fight against terrorism must not encroach "unnecessarily" on civil liberties. And he urged states which invoke international law to "practice what they preach."
Annan, who last week called the U.S.-led war in Iraq illegal, said UN Security Council resolutions offer the best basis for resolving prolonged conflicts, especially in the Middle East and Iraq. He urged states to sign treaties on the protection of civilians and disarmament.
He also acknowledged "gaps and weaknesses" in the international framework of treaties and laws in the area of enforcement.